When Spring English Peas make their appearance in the market, Pasta Primavera makes its way to our table…often. It is a rather elegant name for a rather basic dish consisting of spring vegetables and pasta.
Today was a steamy day, more like summer, so cream is a bit much right now, although it is the traditional way to make this dish. Against the simple backdrop of a best-qualilty pasta, market-fresh Spring vegetables sing with all their color, texture and flavors in this simple Pasta Primavera.
The season for fresh Spring English Peas is not very long and the peas that do make their way to the end of the season become oversized and mealy, best suited for a soup than enjoyed in their glorious simplicity as they do in this dish, or in salads. Tender spring peas won’t last long in your kitchen either. It’s best to store them in the fridge and use quickly.
English pea pods can look a little dusty and gritty but their rough exterior belies the gems they contain. Try to select medium size pea pods that are rounded out by the peas. Some smaller pods were picked too early and do not contain mature peas. Large pea pods contain the mealy peas described above.
While effort is required to shell the peas, it’s not really time consuming and the rest of the preparation is minimal. Simply snap off the stem and pry open, removing the string along the seam, if necessary, then run a finger or thumb along the seam to loosen the peas into a bowl.
Pea shoots make its way into this dish, as well. I add them just at the end so they can remain crisp to add a little texture and retain their fresh, clean taste that seems distinctly spring.
I provide a recipe below but use it only as a guide and you’ll soon gather the confidence to make the dish your own. Spring in in the air and now it’s on your plate. Enjoy it all while it lasts.
- ¼ lb asparagus, ends trimmed
- ¼ lb. spring carrots (or any carrots), peeled and sliced into long narrow slices
- 1¼ cups shelled peas (or frozen)
- 1 large spring garlic (or 2 garlic cloves and a small shallot), remove dark green tough ends and chop light green and white into a small dice
- 5-6 stems fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
- ¼ cups of parmesan cheese, or more to taste
- 10 oz dried spaghetti or favorite pasta (about ¾ of a 1-lb. box)
- 2 Tablespoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning to taste.
- Black pepper, to taste.
- Put a large pot of water to boil while you prep the vegetables.
- In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil.
- Add the spring garlic and gently cook for 3 minutes, lowering heat if necessary.(Iit should make a gentle sizzling sound.)
- Add the shelled peas and thyme sprigs and cook over medium to medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Stirring occasionally to coat peas with the butter sauce.
- Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add the 2 Tablespoons salt and add the pasta, giving a stir. Cook pasta according to directions, adding the carrots to cook for the last 5 minutes and the asparagus for the last 2 minutes with the pasta. (for example, if your directions suggest to cook pasta for 10 minutes, add the carrots after 5 minutes and the asparagus after 8 minutes. ) Keep testing pasta as it should still have a little bite, "al dente."
- Remove the carrots and asparagus to a plate and drain the pasta. Add pasta to the fry pan to toss with the pea and garlic mixture, adding olive oil as needed to coat the pasta completely. Add ¼ cup parmesan cheese and salt and pepper, to taste.
- To serve, place a tangle of pasta in a bowl, add spears of asparagus and carrots and top with a small handful of pea shoots.